Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

At a youth hostel

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

81 km, 5h 30 min

The no trumpets sign - common outside many small towns.  People still quite happily use their horns though...

The no trumpets sign - common outside many small towns. People still quite happily use their horns though...

We did not sleep too badly last night, but were still somewhat restless. At 3 am, Becky woke up to sounds that sounded like someone walking around. She woke Scott up and we both listened intently for about 5 minutes to discover that it was just the tarp flapping. The wind had changed directly and was now coming directly into our shelter. It was warm enough out that this did not cause a problem, so we move a bag to hold the tarp down and prevent it from flapping. Scott had several dreams where a transit station or a warehouse was present in our abandoned building, with many people showing up before we packed up and left.

We were up early – Becky was awake by 5 am – something to do with going to sleep at 8 pm. Becky made Scott get up by 5:45 am, so by 6:30 am, we were packed up and on the bikes. Unfortunately, fog had rolled in a few hours earlier, so everything was damp. Our normal practice while camping if this happens is to lay out sleeping bags and clothing and wait for the sun to dry them. Not an option today, since we needed to leave at sunrise before anyone arrived.

The S.S.7 to Brindisi had good shoulders, and trucks generally changed lanes to pass us, so our ride was pretty comfortable and fast. We tried to take the service roads a few times, but they tended to be much less direct when we were on them. When we were actually on the highway, the service road appeared to parallel us beautifully though!

While we knew where the youth hostel was (roughly), thanks to Google Maps, our South Italy map wasn’t detailed enough to help us get there. We hopped off the S.S.7 at the last exit, went north, and then headed down the SS 16, which we thought was the right direction. We ended up in front of a school at 1 pm when the chaos of lunch happened. We are starting to despise the moment when hoards of teenagers enter the streets at one time, causing all the traffic to become unpredictable. Add teenagers yelling comments at you about your bikes to the unpredictable traffic, and it becomes very difficult to maneuver.

We stopped just past the school to get our bearings. Becky noticed a youth hostel sign at the intersection we had just crossed, so she went to check it out while Scott was looking for the address in the Lonely Planet guide. Just then, Maurizio (owner of the hostel) pulled up beside Scott on his electric bike. We had indeed found the hostel.

We were both quite tired after a restless night and early morning, so we didn’t do much other than unpack, eat and sleep. Scott was in bed by 8 pm!


Wild camping

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

81 km, 5h 30 min

There is lots more to see in Matera, but we are starting to feel time slipping by and worrying about weather in Turkey. Hearing about the first winter storm back home in Ottawa a few days ago reminded us that Turkey gets snow too.

Scott went out shortly after sunrise to get some more photographs of the Sassi, but heavy cloud meant none of the photos were great.

Our ride was not overly adventurous. We were a little late starting, as we tend to do when we have Internet access in the morning. Our goal was to head to someplace between Matera and Brindisi, since Brindisi was too far for a single day given our late start.

All the major roads join at Taranto, but we have no reason to go there, and took many minor roads trying to go around. We ended up riding through Massafra during rush hour, which wasn’t too much fun.

As sunset got close, we hadn’t found anyplace to stay, so decided to use our backup plan – wild camping. This meant eating dinner before we stopped for the night, and continuing on our ride after the sun set. Fortunately our lights and reflectors work well to warn cars of our presence. The Italian drivers continue to give us a wide berth, and mostly slow before passing, which is very nice.

For the night, we set ourselves up in an abandoned building. It seems to be a new building, that looks like they started building it and then ran out of money – not atypical here. They build as much of a house as they can afford, and then wait until they have more money to finish the building. Sometimes they will move into buildings that are not yet finished – which is feasible because the climate is so mild. This particular building was at the end of a road that did not have any signs we could see or a gate, so whoever owns it doesn’t appear to be too concerned about security. We’ll see how well we sleep, and whether anyone comes to check on us!


Wandering about in the past

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

This morning at breakfast, it occurred to Becky that not speaking the language meant they we often experienced things more like the locals. Being in a tourist town, the folks at the hotel speak English. This meant that when I ordered my coffee in the morning, I got exactly what I asked for. In the last week, I have often received my coffee much more “Italian style” than “American style”, mostly because I have been unable to ask. So, when you speak the language, you often get what you ask for, but when you don’t, you have more accidental opportunities to experience the local culture.

Scott walking down into the Sassi

Scott walking down into the Sassi

We spent today alternating between walks around the Sassi and hanging out in our room making full use of the free Wireless Internet. As part of our wanderings we entered a old cave house that is now a museum. The house was occupied until 1958. Because of the 50% infant mortality rate and a malaria epidemic, starting in 1952 the government began relocating the cave dwellers into modern apartments on the outer edges of Matera. Many of the cave homes, including the one we saw, did not have any plumbing. The cave house had four main rooms, one was a living room/kitchen, a workshop, a stable, and a wine cellar. Starting in 1986, many of the caves have been renovated, and are now being used as tourist attractions (museums, restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts).

Vertigo! Don't look down too fast

Vertigo! Don't look down too fast

Walking through the old town feels like you have been transported 2000 years into the past, but there are definitely some modern influences. On the roofs of cave dwellings, you see mini satellite dishes. Scott noticed that there are now sewer grates embedded into the stone roadways. Some of the stairways are old and worn from use; others have are a more recent construction made to look worn. On the older, poorer side of town (Sasso Caveoso) many of the caves have iron gates blocking them. They look like prison cells. As we wandered further away from the center, some of them were open. When you took a peek in, you could smell mould and human waste. It certainly would not be a pleasant place to live or even camp for the night!

The Sassi

The Sassi

Matera is the second UNESCO World Heritage site we have visited – the other being Battle Harbour in Labrador. We have enjoyed visiting both of the sites, and now are thinking we may do some further investigation into the other UNESCO World Heritage sites that we are going to be near. There are currently 878 sites, so we should be able to find a few of them.


A hard day’s ride

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

56 km, 4h 45 min

Our campsite at Camping Internationale

Our campsite at Camping Internationale

Riding today was challenging. It was another beautiful sunny day in Italy, albeit fairly windy (15-20 knots). The ride itself was not that difficult, rather we did not have appropriate fuel. We started out the day at the campground eating the remnants of our food for breakfast – we each had an egg, and shared a banana and a bun. After we packed up and checked our email (the campground office had a computer we could use to check Internet), we headed out in search of coffee. We found a coffee bar pretty quickly, but it was out of croissants. It was a holiday today, All Saints Day, so very little was open.

Our ride from Metaponto Libo (Metaponto Beach) to Matera involved a 400 m climb, which was to loom over us the whole day and not appear on our path until the last 10 km. The wind was pretty strong, and for the most part ahead of us or to the side.

We stopped for lunch at a service station at about 12:30. It was the first place that we crossed on the ride, and we were shocked it was actually open. It was on a part of the highway that was closed due to construction with local traffic only. The only reason we were there is that our detour through farming territory led us back to the under construction highway. When we noted that it was open, Becky insisted that we stop. She was starving. We are very glad we did stop, there was no other place until we climbed into Matera!

Endless dry brown fields

Endless dry brown fields

At first approach, Matera looked like any other Southern Italian city with a mix of new and old apartment buildings (mostly new), but we soon discovered it is not. We had approached from the south, and the interesting old town is on the north side of the hill. As we approached “centro”, Becky saw a tourist office that actually had a person in it. We stepped inside and the gentleman helped us find a place to stay for the night. It turned out that the office was not actually open and that he was a tour guide rather than a tourist office person, so finding us a hotel was a little out of his normal duties. We were grateful that he was willing to make a few calls for us and even negotiate a price for us. It had slipped our minds that we were entering a large city on a holiday Saturday. Once we saw the old city, with all the narrow cobble stone ups and downs, we realized just how lucky we were to have been directed to a nice clean Albergo where are bikes could happily rest.

We are staying just outside of the Sassi – the old town. Most of the old houses are caves that were dug into the rocks. The roads are on the roofs of the houses. The Sassi was inhabited by over 60,000 people until the 1950s, when the Italian government moved over 50,000 people to the modern suburbs. At that time, the area was known for its poverty, as many of the homes were originally built as stables, and did not have running water or a sewage system. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has seen a resurgence in tourism. A lot of the nicer caves have been converted to restaurants and hotels. There are still around 9,000 people living in the Sassi. The area was made famous by the film “The Passion of Christ”, and is now the most popular foreign tourist destination in southern Italy.


An accidental century

Friday, October 31st, 2008

108 km, 5h 45 min

The extra rest day left Becky feeling better and we were ready to get on the train and on our bikes for the 50km to Matera. Our plan was to take the 9:25 am train from Cariati to Metaponto; however, when we arrived at the train station in Cariati, we were informed that said train only ran on weekends. Since today is Friday, our next option for a train that took bicycles was 17:05. Rather than hanging around Cariati for another day, we decided to hop on our bikes and ride to Sibari. There were more trains between Sibari and Metaponto, so we would have more options.

One of the many completely dry river beds.

One of the many completely dry river beds.

We arrived in Sibari after riding about 65 km at 12:40 pm. We discovered that there was a train departing at 12:45. Scott bought tickets and we watched the train leave! It was a few tracks over, so there was no way we could to figure out how to get ourselves and our bikes over to the appropriate track in the little time we had. The next train that allows bicycles was not until 17:58 (this would be the same train that was to leave Cariati at 17:05).

Since it was lunch time, we decided to find ourselves a nice meal. By the time we left the train station, it was 1 pm, so all the stores in town were closing. We watched as the grocery store closed, so there was no chance of picking up something for lunch there. We rode around town in search of a place to get a reasonable meal. There were several “Bars”, but they typically only have fast food. Eventually, Scott led us to a pizzeria/restaurant. At the time we arrived, we were the only patrons. They don’t serve pizza at lunch time, the ovens need to warm up, so pizza is not available until after 8 pm. We had a wonderful mixed salad, bowl of penne with pomodoro sauce, and a piece of chicken. The entire meal cost us 20 Euro, which seemed a bit pricy, but we both left feeling quite full and satisfied.

Rather than hanging around Sibari – which did not look particularly interesting, we hopped back on our bikes and rode further along. At 4:15 pm, we decided to stop at Roseto Capo Spulico. The train allowing bicycles didn’t arrive here until 18:21, but sunset was coming soon. Looking at our odometer, we had ridden over 100km today – our first century in over a month.

A castle restaurant - too bad it was closed.

A castle restaurant - too bad it was closed.

Since we were here early, and could see a castle not far away, we decided to check it out. We discovered that the castle was a restaurant – a closed restaurant at that. It was neat to see that not all castles are museums, but disappointing that it was not open, so we could not go in and see it.

We also stopped for Gelato as a post-ride snack. Unfortunately there was no home-made Gelato, just pre-packaged bars, but it still hit the spot. Two people stopped to talk with us, and were fascinated with our bikes. Scott was quite impressed that we were able to carry on a 30 minute conversation about our bikes, our travel plans and our experiences so far, all in Italian. Lots of rephrasing, miming and referring to the 100-word dictionary in our guidebook was necessary, but having an actual conversation was a welcome change.

At 18:21 the single car train arrived; however, it did not have the bicycle symbol. In an instant, Scott decided we were going anyways, so we lifted Becky’s bike up onto the train through the back set of doors. There was not enough room for both bikes, so Scott put his bike in the front set of doors. We had bought tickets in Sibari, but did not validate them, since the train left before we got organized. We could not find a ticket validation machine anywhere in the station at Roseto Capo Spulico. So, we were on a train with bikes that did not specify bikes without validated tickets. Fortunately, no one seemed to care. Our train ride was less than an hour and by 19:07 we were safely off the train in Metoponto.

Our next task was to find the campground. We are now in the land of our Lonely Planet guide, so we had directions on where to find a campground that had a chance of being open. It was only about 2 km from the train station, and we quickly discovered there was a bike path adjacent to the road from the train station into Metoponto Lido (beach), where the campsite was located. We were able to follow the signs and successfully find the campsite. It appeared to be open but there was no one at reception. A gentleman did come by, but he did not appear to be an employee. He did say we could set up our tent, so we went in search of the tent sites. Camping villages in Italy have several sites for RVs and tents, but also have a lot of rental bungalows. This place is mostly bungalows with about 15 sites. We discovered a Swiss RV and set up our tent in a nicely shelter corner across from the RV.

The restaurant at the campsite was closed. Fortunately, we had enough left over ingredients from last night’s dinner that Becky was able to hack together a nice pasta supper (fresh pasta, ricotta cheese, yellow pepper, and pesto). We even had half a box of cheap wine (1.39 Euro per Litre). After supper, while Scott was doing the dishes, a person from the campground approached him and gave him beach pass. If we wish, we can now access the beach from the campsite. We are not certain yet how much the campsite will cost (guessing between 10 and 15 Euro) or when or how we will pay. We will figure that out in the morning.

So, at 10 pm, after a cold shower (the shower with hot water was locked), we were both ready for bed!


Wow! Other Cyclists

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

15 km to Cariati and back

Since we had found a comfortable spot at Ristorante Camping di Mario, and Becky wasn’t feeling 100% (she felt a cold coming on), we decided to stay here for another night. In order to do that, we needed to do a quick trip into town to get food for the day. We also wanted to check email, and get more information about trains from Cariati to points north.

Thomas, Sebastian, and Becky

Thomas, Sebastian, and Becky

We rode across most of Cariati before we found an Internet Point. To our surprise, there were a couple of other touring cyclists there. These are the first touring cyclists we have seen in Europe. After we all finished with the Internet (when it closed at 1 pm), we bought the cyclists lunch and talked for a couple of hours. It was nice to meet a couple of fluent English speakers where we could have a real conversation. Sebastian and Tomas, from Sweden, were on the return leg of a six month tour. They had ridden from home to Morocco (via Spain), and taken a ferry from Tunisia to Genoa and then Palermo, Sicily. If you read Swedish (or use an online translator), you can learn more about their journey from their website . They are preparing to go to university next fall and are travelling on a very tight budget. They are spending most of their nights stealth camping and in some cases that means sleeping very little. Their experiences in Morocco were very positive, and they found many of the poorest people in Morocco were the most generous. As we shared our experiences, we found that we had all observed that people always warn us about the next province or the next country. “Oh, the drivers there are terrible!” “Be very careful, there are many thieves there!” We agreed that the vast majority of people are good, friendly and helpful. It’s too bad everyone can’t travel like this and learn that “the other” is actually a lot like “us”.

After our long lunch, we stopped by the train station. Scott went around back to examine the schedule. The station itself was closed, so we could not gather too much additional information. While Scott was examining the schedule, Becky got inundated by a group of children. They wanted to know about the bikes and where we were from. None of them spoke English beyond “Hello, Goodbye, What is your name?”. They had to try out the “what is your name?” question many times, perhaps because they didn’t recognize “Becky” as being a real name. They tried asking questions in Italian as well. Becky was entertained for about 5 minutes, but then found herself wishing Scott would return. Scott returned as the kids were asking if they could try the bikes. She tried to explain that they needed to be taller. Scott re-answered a few of the questions, and then we hopped on our bikes and made our escape.

We discovered that there is a 9 am train to Metaponto that has the bicycle symbol. The timing is right and it puts us within 50 km of Matera, so we will try to that out tomorrow morning.


As fate would have it…

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Beach at Camping di Mario

The Beach at Camping di Mario

About 9 km around town.

As fate would have it, we didn’t spend the night in our tent. Becky was happily asleep by 9:30 pm, when the winds began to howl. Scott was still awake reading, and watching the tent blow. Becky awoke, and we thought we were in for a rowdy night. Over the next hour the winds picked up so much that the couple in the RV next to us had to move their truck (which was our wind break) to protect the vestibule on their RV trailer. Not two minutes later, the pegs for our vestibule released and our tent was flapping even more loudly in the wind. We were concerned that even if the tent held, we would be unable to sleep with the noise, so we went in search of a sheltered place to move it. Scott checked out a half built washroom behind the camping area, but it was dirty and all the floor space was full of hoses and piping. We contemplated moving into the handicapped washroom (since no one uses it), but it would have been a tight squeeze. We also thought about setting up in one of the washrooms, but then we would be woken up every time someone came in and turned the light on. Fortunately, Mario came to the rescue. He drove up just as we were contemplating our next move and asked if we wanted to move into a bungalow. Becky said yes immediately! By 11 pm, we had all our gear sprawled throughout the bungalow and we were resting comfortably on a queen size bed.

When we got up in the morning, we were both tired. Since we have been riding for five days, we figured this was a good time to take a rest day. The bungalow is costing us 30 Euro per night, which is much cheaper than any of the hotels we have stayed at, and at least twice the size. It has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a nook that has a fridge. Too bad most of the camping villages are closed, or we would be seeking out bungalows like this one throughout our time in Italy.

In the afternoon, we decided that since we are on the Ionian Sea (in the Mediterranean) that we must go for a swim. It was 28 degrees outside and sunny – and the wind calmed a little over lunch. Shortly after 2:00 pm, we headed down to the sea for a swim. This ocean is right in front of the restaurant, so I’m sure that some of the lunch time patrons were thinking we were mad! It did not take long for us to get into the water – it was beautiful. Becky thinks it was warmer than the swimming pool on the ship. Becky floats much better than Scott in the salt water, so she enjoyed floating over the swells with her feet sticking out of the water. We bobbed about for around 20 minutes and then the wind began to pick up again – causing the waves to be more random. After a swallow or two of salt water, it was time to head in for some serious afternoon R&R.

Since the camping village is under construction, we had a chance to look closely at the construction methods used here. Buildings are made mostly out of concrete and brick, with wood only being used as trim and sometimes for ceilings. Ceilings are often 10 or 12 feet high. Floors are usually cement, tile, or marble and never carpet. There is very little drywall used. With all the hard surfaces and high ceilings, the buildings do not retain the smell of cigarette smoke. Typically, hotels and such do not have non-smoking rooms; however, we have found that even in the cheapest of places, the rooms do not smell of smoke at all. It has been nice to not have to worry about it.


Back in the tent

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Our Tent

Our Tent

72 km, 3h 45 min

We began yet another beautiful sunny day in Italy doing yoga on the beach (our hotel room was just too small). It did not take long before we were on the road with what began as a slight tail wind. After about 15 minutes, the wind at our backs was stronger (maybe 20 km/hr) and the roads were flat, so we were making terrific speed.

As we left Crotone the scenery was not spectacular – it was industrial. We were on a nice side road with very little traffic, and we were moving along at 27 – 30 km/hr, so we were enjoying it. Eventually the scenery changed from industrial to farm land. It was a different kind of agriculture than we have been observing so far. Gone were the olive and fruit trees, replaced with lettuce, fennel, and other ground crops.

After 18.5 km, we had somehow missed a turn and our road ended. Up until today, the signage for the roads in Italy has been amazing. At every intersection, even on the minor roads, there were signs indicting which town or highway was to be found at the end of the road – but not today. Our nice little side road had no sign. Scott stopped to ask directions and unfortunately the person thought we were trying to go to Crotone. He guided us back to the main road to Crotone, from where we had just come! He stopped again, and we were able to explain better the second time. He confirmed that the turn we had seen (in both directions) was the correct one, and we were able to get back on track. Our detour was only about 4 km.

From there, we were back on the main highway. It had a nice shoulder and was still rather flat, so we made good time.

At about 3:15 pm, we stopped in Cariati for a nice sweet snack. The wind was still strong, but now it was occasionally gusty. The road had turned slightly west, such that the wind was at our sides rather than at our back. Becky was wondering if we should just stay in Cariati as there were at least a couple of 2-star hotels. Scott still wanted to try and find a spot to wild camp, so we did a preliminary washing off at the café and then hopped back on our bikes seeking a place to camp. About 15 minutes later, we came across a campground. We figured we’d give it a try. We were amazed to discover that it was open! The restaurant associated with it is closed on Tuesdays, so we did not have an option to eat out. That was OK with us, as we had planned to make our own dinner tonight anyways – we both were looking forward to a meal with more vegetables. So we aren’t quite wild camping, but at least we’re in our tent for the night – far cheaper, and quite cozy.

When we pulled into the campground, the owners – Mario and Madeline – offered us a coffee. That made Becky finally clue in to how hospitality in Italy is often demonstrated by the offering of coffee. On several other occasions, people have offered us coffee, but Becky never clued in that it was a demonstration of hospitality.

As we were setting up our tent, one of the German tourists camping offered us a beer. I think that is how German’s demonstrate hospitality . We were happy to see some fellow tourists and had a brief chat with them. It’s a new campground, and has three retired couples staying here for the winter – two German and one Swiss. It was nice to be able to converse a little in English, but confusing to switch between Italian and German. We are having enough difficulty with Italian, but we are getting better, and more comfortable with the limited vocabulary we do have.

Shortly after dinner, it began to rain. So, just like in Canada, we are tenting in the rain. It feels like home!


Our first castle

Monday, October 27th, 2008

52 km, 4 hours

Castle Aragonese Main Tower

Castle Aragonese Main Tower

Our day today started off at a reasonable hour, but soon our schedule became derailed by an attempt to access the Internet at the hotel (painful) and a stop at the supermercado (grocery store).  Since we were in Le Castella (tr. “castles”) it seemed a shame not to go and see the island fortress which gives the town its name.  There is some archeological evidence of other small island fortresses along the coast, but only one survives.

On our way to the castle, we discovered many more hotels in town.  In hindsight, we should have come a little further down the road before stopping for the night. 

The castle turned out to be rather interesting. It was built sometime in the 1200s as a refuge for Aragonese soldiers.  At the time, Turkish vessels regularly attacked the shores of Italy.  (All this information is from a pamphlet describing the site).

We were impressed with how well they have restored the castle. We spent almost an hour tromping around checking out every nook and cranny that we were permitted to see. We needed to make the most of the 3 Euro entrance fee!

Becky is finding it hard to consider the idea that people inhabited castles in this region in the 1200s. Coming from North America, where European civilization is not that ancient, it is both interesting and difficult to fathom the age of the castles, towers, and even the streets. As we ride through the various towns, we can see the remnants of city walls that are easily greater than 500 years old. Today, houses are built right into them.

We thought about making a real lunch today, but did not stop until 3:15 pm. Then, we were not at an appropriate place to setup the stove, so we ended up continuing our ride to  Crotone. In the end, we ended up not stopping for lunch, and going out to a nice restaurant for supper. The food was very good except the secondi “Frittura Mista”, which turned out to be a selection of deep fried fish. One of the challenges when you have no idea what you are ordering, is that sometimes your choices are not the greatest! The Antipasti Caprese (fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella), Linguini  Alla Scolgio (linguini with shellfish in a wine sauce) and Garganelli Mediterranean (pasta with eggplant, roasted tomatoes in a tomato sauce) were all delicious though, so three out of four isn’t bad.
We are again in a hotel for the night.  Crotone is the capital of the province of Crotone within the region of Calabria, and is the largest city we’ve visited in Italy.  Unfortunately, with cities of this size, hotels are more expensive. We rode into town shortly after four o’clock, passing by many beach villages, camping villages and Agritourismi (farms which take guests and serve very good food).  Unfortunately, all were closed for the season.  We found several expensive hotels, but finally settled on the Hotel Tortelli. It was 70 Euros, and this for a very small room (albeit with a Queen bed) with a view of the adjacent apartment building.  At least it was close to the Lungomare, so we went for a nice walk along the beach.


Crossing Italy

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

63 km, 4 hr

We can now say we have successfully crossed Italy – from the Tynhenian Sea to the Ionian Sea. We did cross at the narrowest point, but we will cross Italy again from the Ionian Sea to the Adriatic when we cross from Taranto to Brindisi.

We did not go into Catanzaro mainly because it sits at 302 meters above sea level and we started out the day at only 59 meters. We saw no need for the extra climbing and instead rode through Catanzaro Lido (Catanzaro beach).

We discovered today that a pub is a great place to get lunch. Prior to today, our lunches have been pizza or sandwiches. We found a pub today that was open and discovered they made a wonderful salad dish and also had some great fruit juices on hand. After not getting any vegetables yesterday (and it being Sunday so nothing is open), we were happy to find a healthy lunch.

At about 3:30 pm the threatening clouds decided to dump some rain on us. At first we put on our wind jackets, but it did not take long to realize they would not be enough to keep us dry. We stopped under closed gas pumps to put on some wet weather gear. Right after we stopped a couple of guys on motorcycles also pulled in. It appeared that they were making a phone call and hanging out until the rain stopped. One of them offered us a snack – some nice chocolate covered peanuts. Unfortunately, they spoke no English, so the conversation we pretty short. Once we had our rain gear on, we headed out only to discover that the rain had stopped – somewhat inevitable!

Tonight we are at the Albergo Il Corsaro in La Castella, near Isola di Capo Rizzuto. We checked out a couple of the camp sites here, but they were both closed. We also passed many Tourist Villages – also closed. Even though the weather is ideal for cycling, a lot of things here are closed for the off-season. Le Castella appears to have at least 4 hotels that are open. The Albergo is much nicer than the Albergo we stayed at in Rosarno, and a reasonable price (by Italian standards) of 60 Euro – which was the going rate for at least one of the other hotels in town. We probably could have negotiated a better rate, but our Italian just isn’t up for it, and we don’t feel comfortable enough to figure out how to ask for a better price. We’ll need to get over this sooner or later, or we’ll continue to overpay for everything.

Sunday night appears to be a night for family celebrations and eating out. We ate in the hotel and there were at least three large groups having dinner together.

We haven’t figured out how to “wild camp” in Italy yet. With sunset at 5 pm and restaurants open at 8 pm, the timing for dinner and camp setup doesn’t work. We are thinking about making dinner on our camp stove, but even then we’ll be cooking in the dark. If we can manage it, it will help to cut down our expenses, and allow us to use the camping gear we’ve been lugging around unused since Catherine’s backyard in Fredericton.

Becky is thinking she’d like to do a “best-of” post. That is, a post where we answer “what was your best …” or “what was your worst …”, but she doesn’t have any great ideas on what things to include. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. So far, Scott and Becky disagree about our best pasta in Italy. Scott really enjoyed the fresh pasta with pomodoro (tomato sauce) we had last night (it was definitely our best value), and Becky enjoyed the linguini she had in Rosarno with a local seafood that looked like little worms (if you looked closely, you could see the eyes!).